The Brentwood district can expand its full-day universal prekindergarten program this school year thanks to a nearly $3 million state grant, administrators said Tuesday.
More than 250 students in the district's half-day session of prekindergarten will be able to enroll in the full-day program next month. Students already in the full-day program had been selected by a lottery.
The district won $1.2 million last year from the state Department of Education to boost the program and district officials announced Tuesday that they will receive more than $2.8 million this school year to add more full-day classroom space for young children. The funding commitment from the state is expected to continue, guaranteeing that Brentwood students will be able to benefit from a full-day program in years to come, school officials said.
"This is a very great day for Brentwood, for our community and for our children," said Brentwood Superintendent Levi McIntyre.
According to the state Department of Education, Brentwood receives funding from several sources for prekindergarten, including more than $3.3 million in universal prekindergarten funds, $1.2 million in statewide universal prekindergarten funds and the additional grant announced Tuesday in high-needs school districts. State officials said that funding, pending approval, would be more than $3.5 million a year.
"When we invest in our children's education early and get them off to a good start, the field becomes more level for them as they enter elementary school," said Jonathan Burman, spokesman for the state Department of Education.
Last year, the district added seven full-day classrooms, resulting in 126 full-day seats for children, school officials said.
Assemb. Phil Ramos (D-Brentwood), who fought for funding in the state budget to expand prekindergarten in Brentwood and Central Islip, secured a $400,000 state grant to help Brentwood boost that number to 216 students this school year.
Now, thanks to the new state grant, 252 full-day positions have been added, with the district being able to offer a total of 468 full-day seats.
The expanded offerings will go to students whose parents requested a full-day slot but had to place children in the half-day program. The half-day has about 598 spaces. The free program serves 4-year-old children. Transportation is provided.
Lindsay Hackett's daughter was picked by lottery to be in the full-day program. "I am a full-time working mom and she is one of three. This meant a lot," she said.The state launched its own public preschool program last year, at an annual cost of $340 million. Most of the new full-day classes are located in New York City. The state's program was a major initiative of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, working with the governor.
Experts say day-long prekindergarten programs have the time to provide a strong curriculum that helps prepare kids for elementary grades. There are nearly 60 districts on Long Island that offer prekindergarten, according to the state Department of Education.